The History of the Athelings

The History of the Athelings

This article has been written to give an overview on the history of the Athelings. The annual Athelings tour is one of the reasons there is such a close relationship between the shooting communities in Canada and in Great Britain, and many of the members of this Great Britain Team had their first taste of international shooting with the Athelings.

The first exchange visits of cadet teams took place in 1910, when parties of cadets from Australia, New Zealand and Canada came to England, and a contingent of 12 English cadets under Major McCalmont MP, Adjutant of Eton College OTC, visited Canada. Many cadets from the self-governing Dominions came here in 1911 for the Coronation, and the British-Canadian exchange visits for cadet shooting teams (then called "Fire Units") were continued in 1912 and 1913.

These early interchanges were fostered by the Imperial Cadet Association, founded in 1908 by Surgeon Captain RJE Hanson, to create and maintain links between the cadet movements in the Mother Country, Dominions and Colonies. Resulting from this linkage, Surgeon Captain Hanson received in 1928 an official invitation from the Secretary of the DCRA for a party of two Officers and twelve Cadets to take part in the Annual Meeting at Connaught in August, and then to spend two weeks on tour in Canada. This, and the subsequent regular visits of British Cadet Rifle Teams, was organised by the Imperial Cadet Association, with the approval of the War Office. The 1928 visit was paid for in its entirety by Sir Charles Wakefield Bt, who at the same time presented to DCRA the Cadet Aggregate Trophy which bears his name.

After 1928, annual visits to Canada were firmly established, and they continued without a break until 1939. Surgeon Captain Hanson introduced the name "Atheling" during this period, to describe the members of these teams going overseas to represent their country in shooting. The word, of Anglo- Saxon origin, means a "young noble", usually the heir to a ruler or leader. In 1932 Surgeon Captain Hanson presented a trophy, which he named in honour of Michael Faraday, to be competed for on the Connaught Ranges, Ottawa, between the Athelings and a team of Canadian cadets.

Surgeon Captain Hanson died in 1940 and the task of restarting the visits after World War II fell mainly on Major JAO Muirhead of Clifton, who had been the Commandant of the 1928 team, and on Major EF Housden of Harrow, Commandant in 1937. Post-War difficulties, financial and otherwise, prevented effective action before 1951 when, thanks to the enthusiasm and practical support of Colonel DG Buell, the Director of Cadets in Ottawa, an exchange of rifle teams was arranged. Colonel Buell's efforts provided generous hospitality for Athelings both on the ranges and while on tour in Canada.

During the Fifties, War Office support for the British Cadet team did not include any financial assistance. As a result it was sometimes difficult to find a sufficient number of cadets with adequate shooting ability who could afford to go, and in 1958 and 1959 the Athelings tours had to be cancelled. The position greatly improved in 1960 when, on the occasion of the centenary of the Cadet Forces in UK, the Ministry of Defence undertook to make a substantial grant which almost entirely covers the travel costs of the team. This grant was negotiated by Lieutenant Colonel CE Bond of the City of London School, who in that year took over the organisation of the Athelings Tour, and it has continued until the present time.

Since 1960 the number of applications for membership of the team has been far in excess of the places available, and cadets can now be selected entirely on their shooting ability. In 1970, following the setting up of the Council for Cadet Rifle Shooting, Colonel Bond was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel RE Goddard of Epsom, and in 1995 Lieutenant Colonel NS Suffield-Jones, late of Bradfield.

Reciprocal visits by a team of Royal Canadian Army Cadets started in the early fifties, and in 1954 Colonel Buell presented a trophy, named after Alexander Graham Bell, to be competed for at Bisley by the cadet teams of Canada and the UK. In this match the UK team is selected from all CCF and Open Unit cadets who are shooting in the target rifle events of the NRA Imperial Meeting.

A further match, shot in two stages at Bisley and at Connaught, was instituted in 1987. It is known as the Rex Goddard, with a trophy presented by Lieutenant Colonel AJ Cafik, Commandant of the RCAC Bisley Teams of 1985 - 1988. Competition is between the Canadian Bisley Team and the Athelings, and was at first based on aggregate scores in the Ashburton/Garry and the Buell matches. Since 1993 this event has been fired as a separate match, using the standard issue cadet rifle of the host country.

  Canadian Wins UK Wins
Michael Faraday 36 30
Alexander G Bell 11 46
Rex Goddard 11 12